More Park Oaks To Be Cut Down

By Patric Hedlund

Three more heritage oak trees are to be removed from Frazier Mountain Park because they are unhealthy and pose a potential danger, according to an arborist hired by Kern County to assess the park’s stand of Valley oaks.

Gregory W. Applegate of Arborgate Consulting, Inc. presented a well-written report regarding the health of the community’s treasured Valley oak trees earlier this month, but it was not released to the community by the Municipal Advisory Council’s (MAC) current oak tree committee chair, Rob Peterson, until last week.

“I apologize,” said Peterson Tuesday, Nov. 16 at the MAC meeting in Frazier Park, saying he had let the arborist’s report sit in his email in-box for a week. Meanwhile, community members had been anxiously asking for the report. Michelle Nosco of Arts for Earth Foundation had to submit her grant proposal to develop a program to help tend the oaks without seeing the arborist’s recommendations. The grant is to create an “Adopt an Oak” program for the Mountain Communities that will raise money for their care, educate the public and memorialize all the heritage oaks in this region with plein-air art and photography.

“We want to tell the histories of these 200-400 year old giants,” she said. By Earth Day in April 2011 she hopes to launch the full program. A propagation project will be starting in the beginning of January.

Applegate confirmed in the report (which cost $6,525 to prepare) that construction activities had stressed the park’s oaks. He also said two generations of Valley oaks are missing in Frazier Mountain Park.

“There is an old saying among arborists that oaks grow for a hundred years, live for a hundred years and die for a hundred years….Most of these oaks are in that final stage of life,” Applegate wrote. Some local oaks in this region, such as in Hungry Valley State Park, are said to be 500-600 years old, but 100-year-old and younger oaks appear missing in the region. Propagation of new young oaks from local acorns must begin immediately, the county was told, so that adaptations specific to our local trees are preserved. Such adaptations have made it possible for these parent trees to thrive here.

Linda Robredo of Frazier Park has been attending seminars about preserving oak woodlands and reviewing “all the oak tree ordinances in the state of California” in an effort to develop an ordinance proposal that will be practical for Kern County, she told the MAC meeting.

At the urging of the Mountain Communities, on Tuesday, Nov. 30 Lorelei Oviatt, director of planning and community development, will take the Kern County Board of Supervisors a proposal for a county-wide effort to explore heritage oak preservation. The MAC voted Tuesday to send a letter supporting that effort. Watson told the MAC he does not think the board will approve it.

Robert Lerude, director of the Kern County Department of Parks said he will give the public three to four weeks notice before removing the trees. He said his department can’t afford arborist reports for all the county’s ailing heritage oaks.

“The county’s idea of ‘taking care of these oaks’ in the past has been to just cut them down,” Robredo said. She said she hopes to see that change.

This is part of the November 19, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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